Unplanned Pregnancies on the Rise in Uganda

According to a 2008 study carried out by Guttermacher Institute of Medicine in the UK, in conjunction with Makerere University Faculty of Medicine, entitled “Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Uganda: Causes and Consequences”, an estimated 775,000 women in Uganda have unintended pregnancies annually.

“The proportion of Ugandan births that were unplanned rose from 29% in 1995 to 38% in 2000-2001, indicating high levels of unintended pregnancy,” the study notes.

The study further states that overall, about 1.83 million pregnancies occur in Uganda annually.

“An estimated 16% of these pregnancies end in induced abortions, 26% in unplanned births, 42% in planned births and 15% as spontaneous abortions.”

The authors of the report noted that unintended pregnancies occur due to many women having difficulty in using modern methods of contraception correctly, which increases the risk of contraceptive failure.

“In addition, a substantial proportion of Ugandan women don’t use contraceptives at all because they believe they are detrimental to their health. Some think that they will become infertile if they use contraceptives,” Florence Mirembe, of the Faculty of Medicine, Makerere University and principle investigator and project manager of the study in Uganda, explains.

She says unintended pregnancy happens for example, when a woman decides to take pills only on the days she has sex.

Male deception and death of traditional sex education institutions also contribute to unintended pregnancies.

The study noted that some respondents from the society said the untrustworthiness of men, who sometimes sweet talk young girls into having sex by falsely promising that they will protect them against pregnancy, also contributes to unintended pregnancy.

One 36-year-old man in a rural area in Uganda confessed: “When I impregnated her, I knew I had because I went to her place and asked for sex. She refused, claiming that she was in her unsafe period.

“I was burning with passion, so I convinced her that I was going to withdraw before ejaculation so that I don’t impregnate her, but I failed to because I was enjoying myself.”

A group of urban women said when they were in school, they had a senior woman teacher who would counsel them. And even the ssengas (paternal aunts) used to counsel girls, but these days the girls are left to make their own decisions and end up getting pregnant.

“The breakdown of traditional community and family-centered methods of teaching young people about sexual partners (particularly the institution of ssengas), leaving adolescents with fewer knowledge and supportive sources to guide them through their sexual lives; and of course poverty, are other issues,” a group of urban women aged 36-49 responded.

The study further discovered that some women and families affected by HIV/AIDS might consider pregnancies unwanted because they fear transmitting the infection to a newborn.

Undoubted, though, the fundamental reason for the high rate of unintended pregnancy in Uganda is the low level of effective contraceptive use by women who want to space their pregnancies or who do not want to have any more children.

According to the 2008 population report, only 24% of women of reproductive age in Uganda are using contraceptives and the unmet need stands at 43%. As a result, women end up having abortions, thus endangering their health.

According to the study, an estimated 297,000 induced abortions are performed in Uganda annually, translating to an annual abortion rate of 54% per 1,000 women aged 15-49, as a result of unintended pregnancy.

Some of the women who abort end up bleeding to death, others suffer from chronic viral infections, septic shock and abnormal injury.

The researchers recommend that policy makers and health planners need to encourage people to increase contraceptive use. “The political will exists to improve reproductive health care, but the financial resources available are insufficient,” said Kiggundu.

They also encourage education in schools and community settings, as well as through the mass media, to emphasise the health and societal needs of family planning. Improving knowledge about, access to and use of effective contraceptives would lead to lower rates of unwanted pregnancy and reduced abortion, the study adds.

“Men should also be enlisted in efforts to improve reproductive health conditions among couples in Uganda.”

Extract from http://allafrica.com/stories/200906090220.html


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